Volume 94, Issue 58

Friday, January 5, 2001


Western to crack down on plagiarism

New building busy

OSAP default rate drops

Tories alter labour laws over break

News Briefs

$30,000 and opening the new millennium

Nooze Rulz

Western to crack down on plagiarism

By Mike Murphy
Gazette Staff

Western is closing in on a computer software purchase that should make it harder for academic cheaters to prosper come next September.

According to Walter Zimmerman, the technical consultant appointed by senate in November to shop around for plagiarism detection software, the university is on the verge of buying a program that can check essays against an Internet database.

"It will be sooner rather than later," he said of the prospective purchase, adding the university hopes to have the program in place by next fall.

"We want something that can not only check Web sites but that can also compare papers that students submit with papers at other universities," said Zimmerman, the on-line services librarian at The D.B. Weldon library

He explained the program would allow professors to check essays against a comprehensive database that would include all papers written by Western students and students at other participating universities across North America. Such a system would require students to submit an electronic copy of each paper they write, so the database could be created, Zimmerman said.

Two such programs are currently being considered, he said, and each costs less than $2,000 US, and would entail additional charges of about 10 cents per essay-page checked. "The program we're looking at, in the big picture, is not expensive at all," he said.

Margaret Kellow, assistant professor of history, said plagiarism is a persistent and time-consuming problem.

"I would say I catch one plagiarizer at least in every set of assignments I grade," she said.

Kellow said she can often detect when sections of an essay are plagiarized by noting abrupt shifts in writing style, but essays plagiarized in whole are harder to pick out.

"The problem that the Internet poses is when the entire paper is plagiarized and you don't have another sample of the student's work to compare it with."

The University Students' Council's VP-education, Jeff Sutton, said regardless of how powerful the program is, its existence alone would probably act as a deterrent to would-be cheaters.

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